As a Process Safety professional, I am convinced that a judicious use of Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment tools at key project stages helps save future lives and optimise operating companies’ revenues. However, I feel that we don’t always achieve the right balance of carrot and stick.

The psychology of adoption of appropriate Process Safety is, I believe, from a company perspective is driven by fear. Fear of paying a large fine; fear of having production halted while investigations take place; fear that a near miss could ‘but for luck’ have become a major incident. In my experience, it takes a jolt for a company to realign its Process Safety dynamic - and once this happens, it often becomes the new norm. So a big stick (or the threat of one) does appear to work at a corporate level.

However, the people who work in companies are differently driven and motivated. Sure, they’ll respond in the short term to the big stick, to avoid pain and discomfort. However, over the long term, they will find ways to avoid it by taking a different path: most likely a more hazardous path. So I would encourage a different approach - less stick and more carrot. We need to find ways of making good Process Safety behaviour more interesting, satisfying and psychologically rewarding. Let’s celebrate the operator who prevents a near miss becoming an incident by a timely intervention. Let’s make exciting associations with effective application of a Safety Review (eat your heart out Hollywood!). Let’s put the fun into the Process Safety function. Let’s tell the world when they ask us what we do ‘we make incidents like Piper Alpha NOT happen’ - making nothing happening for a long time gratifying.

For my part, I commit to being part of this revolution by holding frequent Pop Up Process Safety events. I will explain (amongst other things) where Mick Jagger gets his Process Safety Satisfaction; what Tom Cruise can teach us about HAZOP chairing; how the film ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ demonstrates the different types of human error. The next one is scheduled for the 20th of March in Singapore.

I’m in…..what about you?

big carrot